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THE PORTRAIT-THOMAS HARDY.
The subject of the portrait for this month, was well known to many thousands in different parts of England, yet unknown to the great bulk of professing Israel, and, like his glorious Master, despised and rejected of men; nor was he duly appreciated or sufficiently prized by the faithful in Christ, who were his friends and hearers, until he was taken from the church militant to the church triumphant, in his fortythird year, and the sixteenth of his ministry. Though the Lord Jesus had made him a very able minister of the Gospel, most of his brethren in that office, it is greatly to be regretted, little regarded him in his life, and still less since his death.
THOMAS HARDY was of obscure origin, a poor stocking-weaver in Kirby Lane, near Leicester—the land of darkness and the shadow of death : yet there did the Sun OF RIGHTEOUSNESS arise, with healing in his wings, and the light of life and truth burst forth mightily in his soul. Though not favoured with much of man's teachings, he was blessed with abundance of that divine tuition which gives true learning-that which maketh wise unto salvation, and teaches how to speak a word in season to the weary, tried, tempted, and afflicted soul-to comfort the mourners in Zion-to feed God's poor and needy people. His Letters give abundant proofs of this, though scarcely a tithe of what was very conspicuous in his Expositions, Prayers, and Preachings.
One thing that he continually urged in his conversation and ministry, though overlooked in the notices of his life, cannot be too strongly pressed at the present time—an invincible repugnance to everything new in religion. “When you hear of any new discovery in divine truths, new lights in the Gospel of the grace of God,” he would often say, “set them down at once as false.” The grounds on which he came to this decision, were the following:-In all the works of man, imperfection was sure to appear. There was no end to the improvements to be made in human things; but this could never be the case in regard to the works, ways, and words of JEHOVAH, the God of ISRAEL, the FATHER, the Son, and the Holy SPIRIT: for all his works and ways, revelations and doings, are perfect and complete; full of wisdom and power, grace and truth. That there should be the least imperfection in them, was, therefore, an absolute impossibility. There could be no alteration in any of them. They partook of the nature of his own infinite perfections, not subject to any change, or the least shadow of turning. Improvement thus became an impossibility. In this respect they form a complete contrast to the inventions, discoveries, and works of men, however wonderful and great were their attainments and wisdom; for the whole of which, they were indebted to the Deity, so far as they are good and useful. “What hast thou that thou hast not received ?” is a question that can never be answered rightly and truly, but in a way that brings down human pride from its loftiest pinnacle, and lays man in the lowest dust of abasement and humiliation. It is the settled purpose of JEHOVAH, to stain the pride of all human glory, and bring into con
tempt all the mere worldly greatness and honour found upon earth (Isa, xxiii. 9). It is therefore needful and wise, that all the disciples of Jesus should abandon all vain and useless speculations and searches after new lights, and stand in the good old way ; only inquiring for the Lord's true and right paths, and to walk therein (Jer. vi. 16); leaving all the inventions of men in the things of God.
There may be, and there will be, great increase of light and understanding in the word and works of the Lord (Isa. xxx. 26); but these only bring to view fresh beauties, and discover new glories in old truths ; nothing is added to them, nothing is seen but what was there before. Men are wonderfully taken up with, and carried away by, their new discoveries and new lights ; but this savours more of Athenianism (Acts, xvii. 21), than of true Christianity and vital godliness.
A distinguishing trait in Hardy's character, was a bright and uniform exhibition of the spirit of love and unity, kindness and forbearance, founded upon truth and faithfulness. The Lord made him full of pity, and kept him ever ready to forgive. He abhorred every kind of partisanship and sectarianism in religion. He invariably dwelt, in his ministry and conversation, upon those things which were calculated to unite all the living family of God, all the tribes of that Israel who are loved, chosen, redeemed, called, and sanctified by the Holy One of Israel - the whole household of faith-in one bond of peace and love. * It is remarkable that not one name given by men, or taken by different Churches to themselves, can be mentioned, that does not make a division in the Israel of God; while in all the names which the Holy Ghost hath given to the saints and people of God, and to the Churches of Jesus Christ, in the Bible, there is not one in which any room is left for one atom of separation, division, or schism, to creep in at. These names are above 140, so that any addition to them must be superfluous; and they are found invariably mischievous, because they make breaches in the unity, peace, and concord of that Church which is one—the Lord's only one, his spouse, his darling, the choice one of her mother, the Covenant of grace and salvation. Until this lost oneness of the church is restored, Zion will never accomplish any great deliverance in the earth. The Church will never be terrible to her enemies, until she assumes the position of an army with banners, acting under one Head, one great Commander and Leader, even Jesus, her only Lord and King, Captain and Conqueror. She is now split into numerous and miserable sections and companies ; scarcely one full united regiment is to be found anywhere in these days of division, dispersion, and slaughter. An army supposes the formation of bands into regiments, and a general collection of the whole in one mass or body-consisting of two wings and a centre
-acting for one object, with one spirit, and under the command of one General. This must be in this army, Jesus, the Lord of Hosts, the King of kings, the Holy One of Israel.
But T. H. (see his “Life and Letters," page 50) regarded truth as much as unity, and would only have the one built upon the other.
* Mark this important fact, reader!-Ed. G. M.
* With the great Dr. Owen he regarded · UNION without TRUTH for its Basis, as TREASON AGAINST Christ. He loved union, peace, and concord among brethren, as he loved his own soul, but would not give up one atom of Divine Truth, or abridge one distinguishing feature in the glorious Gospel of Salvation to promote them. He loved the truth and peace, but kept the divine order in this matter, truth first, and then peace built upon it. Outward distinctions and non-essentials, he would never allow to interrupt the free and full flowing of Christian affection. He knew not Church nor Dissent; Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, or Methodist, so far as it respects their separating principles; but leaped over all these walls, and ran through these troops, where they were raised as barriers to the union and communion of the saints, and the exercise of brotherly love. God had given him, as to Solomon, largeness of heart towards all the tribes of Israel, as the sand of the sea. But he shall speak for himself. In a letter to Mrs. Sturton, he says, 'With bitter lamentations, I survey the breaches of Zion, the discord among brethren, which I everywhere behold. O how all seek their own AUTHORITY, HONOUR, AND PROFIT. Silly as babes, we differ about our toys; and wicked as devils, we abhor reconciliation. This alone makes me desirous of preaching no more, except it were WHERE SIMPLICITY and POVERTY have handcuffed this DIVIDING DEVIL. SUCH ARE MY GRIEFS; I hope you will take my arm, and be my fellow-mourner.'"
Another thing overlooked, but well worthy of the gravest attention and notice, was his utter abhorrence of that evil so lamentably prevalent in these dregs of time, the closing scenes of the last days (2 Tim. iv.)-rashly judging men's states and the sitting in judgment on one another, by brethren in the Lord, and mutual partakers of the same faith. Oh, how many openly set aside the command of Jesus ! “ Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. vii, 1). Some not only palpably break this holy and gracious command, but teach others so to do; and the lesson is quickly learnt and awfully practised. Whenever Hardy heard instances of this evil, it grieved him to the very heart. A friend of his once told him, that the Lord had kept him from taking that dangerous Seat, and falling into that snare of the fowler, though perfectly surrounded with them, by causing these plowers to plow long and deep furrows in his back; and by meeting with much and many sufferings from the rash judgments, censures, and curses of the selfelected and self-constituted Judges of Israel. The remark he made upon this statement was, “ It was very well that it had led to such an issue, and the deliverance from such a dangerous position was cheaply purchased by any trials and sufferings that could be endured.” Such was his dread of, and so dangerous did he regard the assumption of, the judgment chair, by poor, weak, erring, and blinded mortals, that know not their own hearts fully; much less the hearts and states of those before God, on whom they pronounce sentences of condemnation with the greatest self-complacency and without any reluctance.
I fear I have greatly trespassed upon you, Mr. Editor, and your readers, but I cannot tell you how important these matters seem, in regard to the glory of Christ and the welfare of his people ; which has led me to greater lengths than I purposed. You will greatly oblige me, and I am sure benefit the spouse of Jesus, by inserting after this notice the following letters of Hardy; and may an unction from the Holy One accompany their perusal. Yours in the bonds of the Gospel,
Leicester, Aug. 8, 1831. This paper will accompany a couple of books, Rutherford's Letters, and Hawker's Life of Tanner;---truly valuable productions. The grace of God makes the same kind of men in every age and of every nation. It was well said, I think, by the excellent Hervey, that “that is the best doctrine, that abases the sinner most, exalts the Saviour most, and most produces holiness." I conceive we see these marks in the testimonies of Rutherford and Tanner, and these characteristics, to use, and to better the application of a current phrase, are the tri-coloured standard of the faithful witnesses of Jesus in all ages. I bless God for emancipation from all the dogmas and distinctions suggested and imposed by the fraud and folly, the selfishness and pride of men ; and that I am heartily disposed to find my religion in the book of God, and to reject all that I cannot clearly deduce therefrom, however commended to me by the voice of numbers, or the pleas of antiquity, or learning, or human authority. It is the infinitely precious privilege of all the people of God to be “taught of God.” And though much ignorance of some things may remain, where God has taught his saving and sanctifying truth, yea, and much prejudice toward the traditions of our fathers, the voice of the many, the testimonies of the learned, and the settlements of human legislators; yet such as are taught of God, do often deal with him, and speak of him in a tone and manner abstracted from all these considerations. I am assured, that in prayer to God, under the pressure of real personal necessity (honours and worldly interest apart), and in real soul-interesting communion, and in matters of life and death, there would be a blessed harmony of pleading, feeling, and expression among Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Paul, Augustine, Wickliffe, Tindal, Calvin and Luther, Cranmer and Goodwin, Owen, Knox, Rutherford, Gill, Bunyan, the most learned Usher, and the unlettered Tanner, the vehement flying Whitfield, and the close retiring Romaine. The selfishness of man would counsel an undeviating uniformity, and the national, or papal, or miniature sectary would stamp every profession with his own adopted impress, or pronounce him lost and accursed, and thus promote the domination of Satan, who rules by division, and poisons communion by invidious suspicions. The apostle speaks of the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. i.); doubtless, the wisdom of God is manifold in all his works and dispensations; by the variations of our temporal conditions, he establishes our mutual dependence, opens a way for the performance of all obliging offices, and leaves abundant scope for the display of avenging justice on our wilful neglect to perform them. Our opposing interests and jarring dispositions, like constrained exercise to an invalid, promote, though with many disagreeable sensations, an invaluable measure of health in the diseased human mass, the civil or politic body. Thus we mutually watch each other's movements; discover, correct, and curb each other's excesses and offences. Thus the power and the wisdom of God constrain human corruption to indict, chastise, and restrain itself, and to be mightily efficient in maintaining an equilibrium in human affairs. Never were sin and ignorance more completely dominant, than when, in the dark ages of Popery, uniformity attained its frightful meridian! But discord and contention wound our peace, and outrage all our comforts. It is true; but the world, as far as mercy affects it, is rather a hospital than a paradise, where painful operations and grievous restraints are far more in character than unlimited enjoyment or peaceful composure; racking purgatives and potent medicaments are often essential to our convalescence. Contentions and oppositions of blind, selfish mortals, do often set the world on fire; and such fire as a prelude to the eternal one, does often punish the criminality that kindles it, and purges also the scum that it excites; while it, no less, where mercy reigns, effects a blessed trial of the faith and patience of the saints. Individual and present ease must be sacrificed to general and to future good. In these wintry times, we must plow and sow in hope ; and, like the husbandman, have long patience for the precious fruits of the harvest. All that comes to pass in the world shall prove a display of the deep, adorable wisdom of God. The vilest filth of human depravity, the extremes of all iniquity, may be overruled to manure the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, and to promote the growth of his pleasant plants.* The murder of Christ,
* Many will object to this statement, that the infinitely holy Jehovah doth make the superlative wickedness and corruption of man, as exhibited both in sinners and saints, a means of
the most atrocious act, opens a way for the most glorious ministrations of the Gospel. The disciples are scattered by cruel persecution at the death of Stephen, but they go everywhere preaching the Gospel. Paul is cruelly persecuted and imprisoned, but it falls out to the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. i). The ostentation of Hezekiah shows him what is in his heart, when left to himself. The abominations of David, and the chastisements wherewith they were followed, may console the miserably fallen, when they need the extremes of mercy, and fearfully warn every trifler of the severity of the rod. The loathsome vileness of our common nature makes the weary saint to long for the wings of a dove, that he may fly away, and be at rest. The wrath of man shall praise God; he will get him honour upon the proud contumacy of Pharaoh, and on the oracular subtilty of Ahithophel." The covetous folly of Nabal, and the restless fury of Saul, shall promote the gracious purposes of God to David. The heartless tyranny of Pharaoh shall drive Moses to the ark of bulrushes, and the amiable but undistinguishing affection of his daughter, shall cherish the little outcast in her bosom, till he attains a maturity to avenge the wrongs of his brethren, and to blast, as the instrument of his God, the glory and strength of that state which made him the child of its hope and promise.
How different were the circumstances of Rutherford and Tanner! Learning, wit, distinguished office, and from education and habit, the zealously inflexible presbyterian, invested the former : while native strength of mind, commanding simplicity, chastened sobriety, humility, and touching affection, encircle the jewel of grace in the latter. Tanner had the painful benefit of grievous but sanctified domestic afflictions, labour, and poverty, in all their mortifying extremes ; while the wit of Rutherford is quickened by his arduous conflicts with the crafty and the powerful of God's enemies; and the productions of his pen are sweetly scented with that cheering grace that the King of saints bestows on his imprisoned and suffering members. But how much of self-abasement appears in them both! how much of the purest love of God! how much of Gospel holiness, contempt of the world, and dread of sin! Their testimony hath also this invaluable commendation, they wrote under circumstances to which suspicion will not attach. The Lord give you and yours, Madam, many a blessing in reading it!
To our dear Lady Lucy Smith, you may be able to say on my behalf the Lord be with her to sustain her in well-doing, and that my admiring affection in Christ would willingly contribute some scraps of instruction in aid of her truly Christian attention to her domestics, if I can. To live upon the words of God's grace in Jesus, as most poor and sinful in ourselves; to be learning, doing, and meekly bearing his will, is the only wisdom, greatness, and blessedness of man.
I am so ill from incessant labour, the heat of the season, and other causes, that I have hardly will or power to treat on personals.-Vol. I. pp. 48–52, 2nd Edition.
promoting the fruitfulness of his own garden, the growth of those trees of righteousness his own right hand hath planted. Yet such is undoubtedly the case. The facts stated in this admirable letter, with its unanswerable reasonings, clearly prove it. When noticing this subject, he frequently quoted Erskine's couplet,
“ Sin, for my good, doth work and win,
Yet, 'tis not good for me to sin."
To a minister who questioned this truth, and the propriety of stating it, he proved to demon
with the word of God. He also showed him a similar statement from the writings of Baxter, who was half an Arminian, and went about in many places where Dr. Owen preached, warning the people against him as an Antinomian. Modern refinement, and false zeal about holiness, raises slanders where Baxter even never thought of using such weapons. This letter contains the strongest proofs that T. H. was the inflexible opponent of all licentious doctrines and practices. The whole aim and object of his ministry, life, and conversation, was to abase the sinner, exalt the Saviour, and fill the Lord's heritage with the fruits of the Spirit, in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth.
This letter also speaks of the dark ages of Popery as being past. A right view of this matter proves the folly, and want of any solid foundation, for many false fears and groundless alarms.-M. H.